Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Impossible - Movie Review

Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast and Geraldine Chaplin.  
Directed by J. A. Bayona.


Based on a true story.  The 2004 tsunami that struck southeast Asia was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. Over 230,000 people died across 14 countries.  This movie focuses on the story of one family.  In real life, they're Enrique and Maria Alvarez from Spain, but in the movie they're changed to Maria and Henry Bennett from England. I know a handful of critics got their righteous-indignation danders up over the story of "white people!" in the tragedy, but I don't mind it. I've read the backstory, and Maria chose Naomi Watts herself to play her.  Other than that adjustment, the movie's remarkably faithful to what really happened.

To the movie!  Maria and Henry Bennett are vacationing in Thailand with their three boys Lucas, Thomas and Simon when the tsunami strikes.  The tsunami sequence is a triumph in special effects, and the immediate aftermath has us on the edge of our seats as Maria comes to the surface, fighting for air, being swept along by a debris-filled ocean wave crashing through what used to be dry land in Thailand.  She soon spots oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland), and they must fight to stay alive and find safety before another wave hits.

Watts and Holland are great in their roles. They draw us in, and their dynamic shifts when Maria's badly injured.  Lucas rises to the occasion, looking after his mother's health, trying to keep her safe.

The acting by the five family members works so well.  I'm happy Watts was nominated for Best Actress for this. The moment when Lucas tells her the rest of the family is dead, you see the shifts in her eyes of absorbing the pain of that but being strong for her son in front of her.  All three kids are great in the moments they have, and the scene where he borrows a stranger's cellphone may be the best acting Ewan McGregor's ever done.

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